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Authorities: Houston was underwater in tub

Published: Sunday, Aug. 30 2015 7:59 a.m. MDT

Annette Armour, from Long Beach, Calif. who is deaf, expresses her sorrow on Monday, Feb. 13, 2012 at a memorial in Beverly Hills, Calif. Whitney Houston, who ruled as pop music's queen until her majestic voice and regal image were ravaged by drug use, erratic behavior and a tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown, died Saturday, Feb. 11. She was 48.  (Damian Dovarganes, Associated Press) Annette Armour, from Long Beach, Calif. who is deaf, expresses her sorrow on Monday, Feb. 13, 2012 at a memorial in Beverly Hills, Calif. Whitney Houston, who ruled as pop music's queen until her majestic voice and regal image were ravaged by drug use, erratic behavior and a tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown, died Saturday, Feb. 11. She was 48. (Damian Dovarganes, Associated Press)

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Whitney Houston was underwater and apparently unconscious when she was pulled from a Beverly Hills hotel bathtub, and she had prescription drugs in her room, authorities said Monday.

Two days after her death, Houston's body was taken to a small, Los Angeles-area airport and flown to New Jersey, where her family was making arrangements for a funeral at the end of the week.

An autopsy was done Sunday, and authorities said there were no indications of foul play and no obvious signs of trauma on Houston's body. It could be weeks, however, before the coroner's office completes toxicology tests to establish her cause of death.

The 48-year-old singer had struggled for years with cocaine, marijuana and pills, and her behavior had become erratic.

Houston was found Saturday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel by a member of her staff about 3:30 p.m., just hours before she was supposed to appear at a pre-Grammy Awards gala, police Lt. Mark Rosen said.

A full access pass from David Van Dusen's collection of Whitney Houston memorabilia is pictured Monday, Feb. 13, 2012 in Knoxville, Tenn. In 1991 Van Dusen traveled with Houston as a logistics and merchandising manager during her A full access pass from David Van Dusen's collection of Whitney Houston memorabilia is pictured Monday, Feb. 13, 2012 in Knoxville, Tenn. In 1991 Van Dusen traveled with Houston as a logistics and merchandising manager during her "I'm Your Baby Tonight" tour. (Knoxville News Sentinel, Saul Young, Associated Press)

She was pulled from the tub by members of her staff, and hotel security was promptly notified, Rosen said. She was pronounced dead about a half-hour later.

"As of right now, it's not a criminal investigation," Rosen said, refusing to release further details. "We have concluded our portion of the investigation at the hotel."

Los Angeles County coroner's assistant chief Ed Winter said there were bottles of prescription medicine in the room. He would not give details except to say: "There weren't a lot of prescription bottles. You probably have just as many prescription bottles in your medicine cabinet."

The coroner's office released the body to the family Monday morning. Later, a police convoy accompanied two vehicles into a Van Nuys Airport hangar, and a private, twin-engine jet rolled out of the hangar and took off shortly after 3 p.m. PST.

Tamika Solomon, of Newark, N.J., takes part in a candlelight vigil as they wait for Whitney Houston's body to arrive at the Whigham Funeral Home, in Newark, N.J., Monday, Feb. 13, 2012. The 48-year-old pop star was found dead in the bathtub in her hotel room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Saturday, hours before she was supposed to appear at a pre-Grammy gala.  (Rich Schultz, Associated Press) Tamika Solomon, of Newark, N.J., takes part in a candlelight vigil as they wait for Whitney Houston's body to arrive at the Whigham Funeral Home, in Newark, N.J., Monday, Feb. 13, 2012. The 48-year-old pop star was found dead in the bathtub in her hotel room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Saturday, hours before she was supposed to appear at a pre-Grammy gala. (Rich Schultz, Associated Press)

Two people who spoke with Houston's family said the singer was being taken to New Jersey. Late Monday, a hearse under heavy police escort arrived at the Newark, N.J., funeral home that officials said was handling the arrangements for the late pop star.

The two people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak for the family, said Houston's relatives raised the possibility of a wake Thursday and a funeral Friday at Newark's Prudential Center, an arena that can seat about 18,000 people.

Houston was born in Newark and raised in nearby East Orange. She began singing as a child at Newark's New Hope Baptist Church, where her mother, Grammy-winning gospel singer Cissy Houston, led the music program for many years.

The White House said President Barack Obama's thoughts and prayers were with Houston's family, especially her daughter. Press secretary Jay Carney paid tribute to the singer's "immense talent" and called it a tragedy to lose somebody so gifted at such a young age.

Funeral arrangements for Whitney Houston are being made by Whigham Funeral Home, in Newark, N.J., Monday, Feb. 13, 2012. The 48-year-old pop star was found dead in the bathtub in her hotel room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Saturday, hours before she was supposed to appear at a pre-Grammy gala. Whigham handled the 2003 funeral of Houston's father, John Houston, according to the two people who spoke to the AP.  (Rich Schultz, Associated Press) Funeral arrangements for Whitney Houston are being made by Whigham Funeral Home, in Newark, N.J., Monday, Feb. 13, 2012. The 48-year-old pop star was found dead in the bathtub in her hotel room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Saturday, hours before she was supposed to appear at a pre-Grammy gala. Whigham handled the 2003 funeral of Houston's father, John Houston, according to the two people who spoke to the AP. (Rich Schultz, Associated Press)

Houston's death is a sad rewind of what befell Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse. It took three months for a London coroner to rule that Winehouse drank herself to death last July. A powerful anesthetic was quickly linked to Jackson's June 2009 death. Three months ago, Jackson's doctor was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

Houston's death tinged the Grammy ceremonies with sadness. It also probably boosted viewership, which was 50 percent higher than last year, with nearly 40 million viewers tuning in to the program on CBS.

A sensation from her first album, Houston was one of the world's best-selling artists from the mid-1980s to the late 1990s, turning out such hits as "I Wanna Dance With Somebody," ''How Will I Know," ''The Greatest Love of All" and "I Will Always Love You." But as she struggled with drugs, her majestic voice became raspy, and she couldn't hit the high notes.

Mourners left flowers, balloons and candles at the wrought-iron fence around the tall brick Newark church where she got her start. It sits near an abandoned housing project and the train line leading to New York City.

Pauline Hayes, sings Whitney Houston's song Pauline Hayes, sings Whitney Houston's song "I Wanna to Dance with Somebody" at a memorial for Houston outside the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. on Monday, Feb. 13, 2012. Houston was under water and apparently unconscious when she was found in a Beverly Hills hotel bathtub, police said Monday, as the singer's family prepared to send her body to her native New Jersey for a funeral. (Damian Dovarganes, Associated Press)

"She was an inspiration to everybody," said Gregory Hanks, an actor who grew up in the neighborhood and who dropped off a bouquet. He saw Houston perform in New Jersey years ago.

"I grew up listening to her as a little boy, and to hear her sing, you knew she was special," he said.

Associated Press writers Chris Hawley in New York and Beth DeFalco and Dave Porter in Newark, N.J., contributed to this story.

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